Jun 30

10 Random Gardening Tips

Gardening Jones shares a few tips to help your garden grow.

Mother nature’s bar code.

1. Watering your garden in the early morning prevents moisture loss that can occur later in the hotter part of the day. It also helps prevent powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that thrive in high humidity levels. Similarly, mulch helps conserve moisture and prevent those nasty microorganisms from splashing up on the plants.

2. It’s a myth that watering during the hotter part of the day causes scald on your plants.

3. Save space by planting garlic, leeks, and green onions in containers. They can easily be tucked in here and there and they help keep insects away. Bonus: If they produce scapes you get a pretty visual accent.

4. If you have an area you can dedicate to onions, try perennial aka Walking Onions. Plant them once, and you can harvest fresh green onions for life. Save that flavor by slowly roasting the chopped tops in an iron skillet. Store in a cool dry place.

5. Don’t harvest all your veggies before the first fall frost, some actually like it. Cabbage, carrots, parsnips and kale taste better, sweeter, after a little frost. Brussel sprouts like hard frosts. Really. Check this out.

6. When transplanting tomatoes, plant them deep enough that the stem is covered with soil all the way up to the top set of leaves. “Bury them up to their necks.” was what the local farmers told us.This helps them develop a better root system, which will take in more of the available nutrients and make for a healthier plant.

7. Use an old window screen resting on wooden horses to cure onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Be sure it is out of the elements and has plenty of air flow. For larger crops like we grow, an old screen door works great.

8.Don’t throw out those sweet potato vines, they are highly nutritious. Cook the way you would spinach. Likewise, trim the onion tops, chop, roast, and grind into onion powder. Hey, that stuff in the store is pricey and not nearly as good.

9. When blanching vegetables to freeze or can, save the water. If you are just preparing a small batch, the cooled water is a great way to give your house plants a nutrient lift. For larger amounts save the water to later turn into soup base. Here’s how to use your scraps to do just that.

10. It’s better to under-water than over-water, so check the soil first. Stick your finger in up to your knuckle. If the soil isn’t bone dry and the plant isn’t wilting, wait. More plants have died from too much attention than the other way around.

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Jun 18

What Makes Oregano and Mints So Invasive?

Gardening Jones talks about Mint and it's relatives.

In most climates, mints and other members of the mint family, which include oregano and all the balms, are very invasive.

There are 2 reasons why:

1. This family’s roots are called rhizomes, and they can and will travel quite a distance underground. Check them out in the pic above. They are so determined in fact, that mulching only makes them go farther.

2. They happily reseed themselves. We have found mints in many areas of the garden, even though ours are planted in containers. Allowed to flower, or bolt, depending on your point of view, the seeds can be carried by the wind and you may find mints and oregano all over the place.

So although they can be a handful, we will continue to grow a variety of mints and balms, albeit in containers, because their flavors are so worth it.

-Hamburgers with a little spicy sausage and fresh mint are out of this world.
Homemade mint extract is way better than store bought.
-Use oregano as part of your homemade dry rubs, and it is an essential ingredient in Greek cooking.
-Balms are also great for cooking, such as Lemon Balm. Additionally they help attract bees to your garden, Bee Balm in particular.

Related Post: 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs


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Jun 12

When to Start Fall Crops

Gardening Jones shares how she decides when to start seeds for a fall harvest.

I know, it’s only the middle of June and already we’re talking about the fall plants. But the time to get started is now.

There are a few crops that actually like the cold, and even taste sweeter if allowed to get some frosts.

Recently we learned that Brussel Sprouts in particular can be harvested way into the winter.

So how should you go about planning for a fall harvest of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and sprouts; as well as some carrots, kale, and mache?

First find your average fall frost date here

Add on a few weeks to be sure your plants get some frost. For example, the average fall frost date for Zone 5 is Sept. 30. Add on 3 weeks and you’re at Oct. 21st. Now simply subtract the time you need to grow your crop.

A fall storage-type cabbage takes about 12 weeks to mature after transplanting later in the season. Add another 5 weeks from starting the seeds until they are ready to transplant. When you subtract those 17 weeks from Oct. 21st., your seed starting date is during the last week of June. Note non-storage types grow much faster, usually only about 7 weeks after transplanting.

Brussel sprouts can be started at about the same time. Broccoli and Cauliflower are ready to harvest about 7-8 weeks after transplanting outdoors. We start them inside around the middle of July.

You can direct seed these plants as well. You would just need to make sure they stay well watered until the seeds emerge. This could be difficult in the hot summer months. We like to plant kale and mache in with the tomatoes and find transplants are best, again as the tomatoes might not like being kept wet for 3 weeks.

You can direct seed carrots, kale and mache all summer. Kale can take a lot of cold as can carrots. Some gardeners overwinter mache with minimal protection.

Carrots can be harvested through the winter as long as you can get them out of the ground. We have been known to use an ice pick, but really affording them protection is much easier.

And safer. 😉

Related article: 5 Things to Know About Days to Maturity.

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Jun 11

Gardening for Brain Power

Many years ago I read of a study that showed that activities that involve the brain having to predict outcomes help to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

Other studies have shown that physical exercise alone may help, but this study was more specifc and certainly more emphasis was on the types of activities. These included chess and similar games of strategy, as well as gardening.

Gardening Jones takes a look at exercising your brain through gardening.

Initially, the ground was uneven and full of weeds.

So here I am going to share a garden project with you, and help you predict the outcome yourself.

My husband recently asked me if I could do something with this side of the house. The ground is very uneven, and he is concerned he might fall while weed-whacking.

Two solutions come to mind:
1. Make it less uneven.
2. Get rid of the weeds.

Gardening Jones takes a look at exercising your brain through gardening.

The only thing that helped was the hostas.

So I started by building a path that evens out the walking area. It needs more mulch, but it’s a beginning.

From there I divided some of the hostas we had, and added a few new varieties from the local nursery. This area is mostly shade, so the hostas will continue to do well. It’s also away from the deer. 😉

A friend recently gave me a box of Lily of the Valley he had dug up, which I love and they also like shade. I know from previous experience these plants do well together, and it won’t be long until they fill in the area and choke out any remaining weeds.

Gardening Jones takes a look at exercising your brain through gardening.

Pull some weeds and share plant love.

So here’s where your imagination can kick in. Picture this: Alliums such as these and this one growing not only against the wall, but dispersed throughout. Okay, this one too. How about some Astilbe cascading over those uneven areas?

Let’s tie it all together with these Purple Toad Lilies and an assortment of faux stone pots with herbs and other shade loving perennials.

Gardening Jones takes a look at exercising your brain through gardening.

Add a path and some imagination.

Can you picture that in your head? What would you add?

Now then, you just helped prevent yourself from getting Alzheimer’s by imagining how this will look. Good for you, keep it up!

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Jun 10

Not ‘Just Another Hoe’

dandelion in the garden

dandelion in the garden

‘Weed’ is an interesting word.
It is both a noun and a verb, the meaning of the verb is to get rid of the noun.

You might consider the opposite of ‘weed’ to be ‘harvest’.
Also a noun and a verb, though here the meaning of the verb is to gather in the noun.

As much as I enjoy harvesting, I hate weeding.

So when I was asked to test a tool that had a weeding function, I cringed.
Could I write something good about something I dislike so intensely?

cobrahead tools

the long handled and the original

I looked at their website and saw they had a long handled version of the same tool.
Now we’re talking.

If it did what they say, it would mean no more sore knees and back pain just from removing what I didn’t plant in the first place.

The company, a real Mom and Pop store, were kind enough to send me both tools to try.
So I gave it a relatively easy test- on the dandelion pictured above.

“Please let this work” I thought, because if it didn’t, well- I wouldn’t lie to you.

One chop-It was a Robin, Boy Wonder moment- Holy Hoe Batman!

dandelion weed

who’s dandy now?

Seriously, one shot, no bending, weed out root and all.
Turn the tool to the side and pull the weed toward you.

I was impressed.
With unexpected enthusiasm, I did the whole bed in just a few minutes. No bending at all.


bed of weeds

bed of weeds

weeded raised bed

weeds lose, I win

weeded weeds

a bucket full

Alright- what ‘can’t’ it do?

A few days ago I dug a particularly difficult weed from just outside of the raspberry bed.
It took me about 10 minutes, using a shovel.

It had a real good grip, but I got it eventually.

There was another patch inside the bed, which would have to wait to be dug out after the berries were done producing.
Or so I thought.

Three hits with the Cobrahead and it was out, just like that.

nasty weeds

nasty weeds

nasty times two

nasty times two

I haven’t been this excited about a tool since I got my first wheelbarrow.

I’ll tell you why:
I have one long bed on the front end of my garden where I have been fighting a very intrusive weed for a few years now.
This year I reluctantly decided to not plant there at all, in an effort to finally get rid of it.

But now I’m thinking differently.
I’m actually excited to go out today and win that weed war, because now I have the tools to do so.

I’m looking forward to weeding, I never thought I’d say that.


it’s a family owned small business

But don’t just take my word for it:

Shawna Coronado tries out the original version.

This YouTube Video shows all the ways to use this tool.

Where to get your own.

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Jun 04

You Can Grow That – In a Greenhouse

Gardening Jones takes a look at how she is using her wee greenhouse to get more produce.

Admittedly I was disappointed in the wee greenhouse we bought; I had expected more.

I thought it would stay warmer during the cold, and I didn’t expect it to be able to get so hot so very fast. I had done some reading up on it, but most people that write or videotape about their greenhouses are showing how well they keep them warm during extreme cold weather, which turns out to be more effort and expense than we need to do.

What it came down to was a matter of us finding our way and making the greenhouse do the most it could for what we need.

And that’s what we did.

It’s the first week of June and in our Zone 5/6 area most tomato plants are just getting their root-hold. In the greenhouse, we have some green tomatoes already from a plant started indoors and transferred out when we could easily keep it warm at night.

We also have another tomato, shown, that is growing in leaps and bounds. It is twice the size of our other plants started at the same time. This variety is called Tropic Tomato, and as the name implies should do well even when the temperatures go up later this summer. If it does very well, we may grow a number of them this way next summer.

Our Big Thai Hybrid hot pepper is loving this environment. It was started early like the fruiting tomato, and is now loaded with peppers. Seriously, there must be 60-100 on it, easy, and soon they will be turning red.

We have 4 eggplants potted up in the greenhouse, and they are twice the size of the ones we planted outdoors. From an experience we had with a hoop house many years ago, we predict the eggplants will do very well in the heat.

If you are wondering how the plants are doing without the help of bees, keep in mind that all three have both male and female parts on each flower. To help that along like a bee might, we use a tuning fork whose vibrations on the flower cause the pollen to move. We also have a fan going.

Last summer we also grew parthenocarpic cucumbers, a hybrid type that doesn’t need to be pollinated.

We are now using the greenhouse for the first time to start seeds. Normally we do that indoors, but this seems like the perfect environment. Since we lost some of our peppers in the garden to critters, we have a second chance to get them by keeping them in the greenhouse into the fall months.

One other thing we were able to use the wee greenhouse for was potatoes. We had some left from last year, but they were not going to make it until planting time outdoors. We potted them up in the greenhouse, and they will soon be ready to steal a few new ones from.

So I guess it was really just a matter of us getting used to what the greenhouse can do. The fun is still in the experimenting, that’s for sure.

Isn’t that what gardening is all about anyway?


you can grow that

is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the link to find more posts and Happy Growing!

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Jun 02

60 Till 60

Even way back then there was a garden involved.

Even way back then there was a garden involved.

In 60 days I will be 60 years old, a feat not everyone gets to enjoy.

But when I take stock in how well I am aging, I find a number of areas for improvement.

I often have to take steps one at a time due to joint issues. I find I am having sinus problems more often as the years go by. The same is true for back pain. And it has become all too obvious I am not as strong as I used to be.

Although I don’t eat a lot of junk, I also don’t eat enough fresh foods. My diet has become haphazard the last few years, with my work and hobbies taking precedence over my health.

I also feel I lack a clear focus on how I want my life to proceed the next few decades.

Do I want to be gardening at 90? Heck yes. In order to make that happen, this is my 60 Till 60 plan:

1. Bump up the fresh foods. I will happily consume one of these simple salads at least 5 times each week. There will be homemade healthy dressings that I will share recipes for.

2. Make it easy and fun to get some daily exercise. I intend to move the treadmill and Wii Fit to a place where I can enjoy using them. Since I tend to multi-task, I will have video learning experiences available in this spot. This will also include getting a porch awning so I can do Yoga outside, a great idea SaveTheWorld came up with.

3. Lose weight and cut the belly fat. I am a walking example of what to do if you want to become diabetic. If these were in order of importance, this would be number one. Here I intend to eliminate as many sugars as possible, including a lot of carbs, and target some of the exercise to my abdomen.

4. Focus my intentions. I have already started a Vision Board, and will revisit The Secret. I do believe that we can create our own life by what we focus on, both positive and negative. I have seen it happen before, and I intend to get that back. The last few days I have been envisioning what I want my life to be, and already I am happier and some things have begun to change.

5. Make my happy places happy again. Similar to #4, I have noticed that the areas of the house and yard that I use for what I enjoy have become cluttered, overgrown you might say. Time to weed, simplify, and let the positive energies flow.

So for 60 days I will pay attention to my life, and redirect it as needed. Of course I will start with blood tests and measurements, and I’ll report back on those. I won’t drag you through all the details, but if I do find an unexpected positive I will share that.

My intention overall is to enjoy the 60 day journey, but not fully reach the destination for decades.

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May 30

How to Can Rhubarb


Gardening Jones shares a simple recipe for putting up rhubarb.

Rhubarb isn’t just for Spring anymore.

Although it can be frozen, we honestly didn’t care for the consistency much for the amount of freezer space it took. So we decided to can it instead.

There are recipes on the internet for chutney and BBQ sauce, and we have made Victoria Sauce in the past. Today we simply canned it as a fruit topping.

For every pound of rhubarb you will need 1/2 cup sugar and you will get about a pint of product.

Wash the stalks and cut into chunks. Toss with the sugar and let sit 30-45 minutes to draw out the natural juices. Simmer for just a few minutes to soften.

Pack into hot sterile jars leaving 1/2″ head space measured from the very tops of the jars. Wipe the rims.

Top with lid and attach screw band using just the amount of force your fingers only will provide.

Water bath can 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

If any jars do not seal, refrigerate. Otherwise store in a cool dark place.

Use it the way you would any fruit topping: on ice cream, pancakes and waffles, or layer with strawberries and whipped cream for a delightful parfait. If you preserve strawberries as a juice or freeze, you can have a wonderful dessert even as the snows pile high come winter.

How to Grow Rhubarb

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May 29

The Answer is… Part 2

Gardening Jones answers some of the most commonly asked questions about growing food.

Here are a few more of the most common answers we give. If you have a question, chances are you’ll find the answer here or in Part 1.

1. It’s a determinate type. Why did my tomatoes suddenly stop producing when they were doing so well? If you planted a determinate type, you will get most of the fruit in a relatively short period of time. Determinate plants, vs. indeterminate are especially great if you are going to preserve your harvest. Shorter tomato varieties, bush beans and peas are the same way. Indeterminate types are more likely to grow tall and are usually the pole peas and beans.

2. Half runner. My bush beans are growing tendrils and trying to climb, what’s up with that? Most seed packs of beans and peas describe the plants as either bush or pole, but there is a third type. Half runner beans will produce tendrils and grab onto each other for all the support they need. Not to worry, they will be fine.

3. It’s bolting. A term that basically means the plant is done producing and is now going to make seeds to replant itself. This happens to almost all greens when the temps get high. You may see some varieties labeled as slow-to-bolt. The picture above is our Pak Choi reacting to the unseasonably hot weather we are having. Plants can be eaten after they bolt. The flavor may be affected on some. Either way, don’t forget to save the seeds. For cilantro, the seeds are known as coriander and are a rather pricey spice.

4. It’s a biennial. Did you find a missed carrot in the spring, only to have it start to flower? This term refers to plants that grow their root system the first year, then flower the next. Common examples include carrots and parsnips. If your climate is right, you can leave a root in the ground over winter. In the spring it will produce seeds that you can either collect or let the plant reseed itself. Our parsnip bed planted a few years ago is on the verge of become invasive. The plant reseeded with abandon and the wind helped.  I think I’ll go with collecting the seeds myself from now on, so I have more control.

5. For years. Many gardeners wonder how long seeds are viable for. Here’s a very conservative list. So if you have found seeds from years ago, just give them a test to see if they germinate. Chances are very good they will, and you’ll have saved some cash by not replacing them. Also note this means you can buy end of season seeds and be confident they will be just fine for the following season, and likely for many more.

6. 5 Gallon. This is the ideal size for 1 tomato plant or for 2 pepper or eggplant plants. It doesn’t mean you have to use this size. Of the 3 listed, tomatoes are the ones that rely most on their root development, but you can plant them in a smaller pot and still do well. Especially if they are determinate types. See #1. And yes, you can plant more than 1 pepper or eggplant together. Peppers especially love the buddy system. Here’s a list of more container size best practices.

7. Give them water. If tree rats, aka squirrels, are treating your garden like a personal buffet table, try providing them with water. Chances are that’s what they are seeking anyway. The top to a bird bath works well. Place it outside your garden, fill with water. Keep it filled and every few days move it away from the garden. Head for the woods or a neighbor you don’t like. Eventually the squirrels will find somewhere else to get what they need. If they are also attracted to your bird feeder, lace it with hot pepper flakes. The birds can’t taste it, but the squirrels can.

8. Give them beer. Although we can’t go in to all the bug issues here, we can offer this simple solution to slugs. We plant small canning jars throughout the gardens and fill them with beer. Slugs are lushes, quickly find them, and will drink themselves to death. Replenish as needed and especially after it rains when they are more likely to be about.

Remember we are always happy to answer your gardening questions. You can follow us on Facebook for quicker answers to your garden issues.

Happy Growing!

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May 21

A Perennial Food Garden

Gardening Jones shares what she is doing to make part of her gardening easier.

There’s an old joke that the older you get, the farther away the ground gets.

It’s funny, but it’s also basically true.

Our largest part of the garden is by the road, which also seems to be getting farther away. The beds are raised, but only slightly. So we decided to make that part the perennial garden as much as we can.

Of course, most perennials in the northeast are fruit. So we have an assortment of berries including blueberries, bunchberries, and cranberries together as they all like acidic soil, strawberries, currants, blackberries, red raspberries, and aronia berries.

If you walk through the garden you’ll be greeted first by our grape vines, then walk by the pears, peaches, apple, plum and apricot dwarf fruit trees. Eventually you’ll find the sunchokes, asparagus, and rhubarb plants. The horseradish got out of hand, as horseradish tends to do, so we are revamping those containers.

Still there’s more, including numerous herbs and lavender.

A few years ago we added perennial aka walking onions. We liked them so much, we moved them to a larger bed. The ones pictured above are just a very small part of what we have available now.

Now we just have 3 beds remaining. Well two actually, as today I started preparing one of them to be a parsnip bed. Although they are technically a biennial, we have found that they will reseed themselves with abandon and return the following year. If we plant 2 successive years, we will have a lifetime of parsnips. I can handle that. Of course, I will cover them when they go to seed, to keep them somewhat under control.

So two beds remain, one about 4×3 and the other a long thin bed about 8×2. Any suggestions for edible perennials in Zone 5/6?

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